How Your Goals Can Keep You Stressed Out

We hear it all the time – to get ahead, you need to set goals. Have you ever struggled with your goals or felt stressed out by them?

I have heard about setting goals from so many leaders in the self-growth field. Goals are a big topic for motivational speakers. I’ve even taught goal setting methods.

But what if we had it all wrong? What if your goals could be limiting you and stressing you out? What if there is a better way?

How do goals work?

The dictionary tells us that a goal is the object of a person’s ambition or effort, an aim or desired result. An early use of the word goal is “gol” which implied a boundary or limit.  Even though we set goals to get ahead, sometimes they have the effect of holding us back from our best life.

Goals can be helpful. They give you structure and a way to track your progress. They can help you create a to-do list.

The dark side of goals

How did you decide on your goals? Many times we set goals based on what we think we should want. Perhaps you set a goal to please your parents. Maybe you looked at successful people and set goals to be like them. In my youth, I set a goal to get a college degree so I could get a good job. After I graduated I got a good job and quickly realized that I did not like it at all. Maybe you had a similar experience.

These kinds of goals are not heart-felt and don’t reflect your life purpose or your deeper desires. I think of these as logical goals – the ones you should want.

When your goals are not heart-felt, you need to be motivated to keep moving forward. You need to push yourself. Constantly pushing yourself is stressful.

How many of you have listened to a great motivational speaker? You got all fired-up and left the talk with some great tips. But how long did all this artificial motivation last? In my experience, not very long.

Is there a better way?

According to Vishen Lakhiani, who wrote The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life & Succeed on Your Own Terms (2016), with a goal oriented model you need to push yourself. With a vision oriented model, you are pulled forward into the future. You feel like you are living your purpose or you are being called to serve.

How does a vision differ from a goal? You can think of a vision as a compelling future. It has a strong emotional component. For many of us a vision is bigger than just our personal future. It might be a way to make the world a better place. Goals can be helpful when they are part of a bigger vision.

Creating a vision can be more work than creating a goal. Instead of doing what you think you should do, you will need to look deep inside and discover your true purpose. What makes your heart sing? If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you love to do with your life? What would a perfect world look like? These kinds of questions can help you discover your vision.

This sounds way too scary

Discovering a heart-felt vision for your life can feel scary. But, are you scared or are you excited? Sometimes we confuse these two feelings. If you can hold the feeling in your body and keep breathing, you might just be excited. If you have not allowed yourself to dream for a long time, excitement may seem like a scary emotion. Excitement is a great way to pull yourself toward the life you have only dreamed about.

If it really is fear, it may be unresolved fear from your past. Maybe you were told you weren’t smart enough or you needed to be realistic or that won’t ever work. Did you hear negative messages from your family and teachers? You can release these limiting messages from the past. The poetry of emotion process can help.

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(Image: Luke Harris and Paxson Woelber @ Flickr)

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